More than 100 people died in Washington last year after requesting and taking a lethal prescription through Washington’s Death with Dignity law, the state’s Department of Health reported Wednesday.
Officials said that 173 people requested and received lethal doses of medication in 2013, a 43 percent increase from the year before. Of those people, 159 are known to have died, state officials said, including 119 who died after taking the medication. Twenty-six people died without taking the medication, and the department said it’s not known whether 14 others who died took the medication.
The state does not know the status of the remaining 14 people who filled the prescription, either because those individuals are still alive or because their doctors haven’t turned in reports yet on their deaths.
The prescriptions were written by 89 different physicians and dispensed by 23 different pharmacists, the health department report reported.
The health department shared other details about the program participants who have died:
• They ranged in age from 29 to 95.
• More than 95 percent lived west of the Cascade Mountains.
• 77 percent had cancer, while 15 percent had a neurodegenerative disease and 8 percent had heart disease or another illness.
• 95 percent had health insurance.
• 97 percent were white.
• 52 percent were married.
• 76 percent had at least some college education.
Most of the people who asked their doctors for a lethal prescription told them they were concerned about losing autonomy, dignity or the ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable. Most died at home and were in hospice care at the time of their deaths.
Washington was the second state after Oregon to adopt a death with dignity law after voters approved an initiative in 2008.